Publish Novellas 23 March 2022
EPISODE 2 – REFLECTION
During an anniversary dinner, a husband inquires about the obscure source of his wife’s ageless beauty.
On the Clarks’ twentieth anniversary, Mae looks as beautiful as she did when Robby first met her. He jokes that she should stop dying her hair since his gray is showing up prematurely.
By the thirtieth anniversary, Mae looks no older than her children. Friends tease that Robby must have robbed the cradle.
With symptoms of arthritis creeping up on him and a full head of gray hair, Robby recalls the conversation about anti-aging with Mae when he was still in university. So he brings up the subject again over dinner.
“Mae, you look as beautiful as ever,” Robby says while pouring wine into their glasses at a restaurant.
“Thank you, Robby, my faithful and distinguished husband.”
“You must realize by now that I look old enough to be your father. How is it that you do not appear a day over 29?”
Mae sips some wine before evasively replying, “I eat well, exercise and am well cared for by my gray-haired sugar daddy.”
“Remember when I was about 20 years old? I shot down your anti-aging theory,” Robby reminisces.
Nervously sipping more wine, Mae acknowledges, “Yes, of course I recall.”
“Well, I’m sorry for doing so. You are a bright scientist and I shut you down.”
“I don’t fault you. Others would have similar reactions. Your objections were well articulated.”
“I think I have matured to the point where I am ready to entertain the subject with an open mind. How does it work?”
“By using CRISPR, it is theoretically possible to alter one’s DNA to suppress or destroy degenerative cells.”
“I get that. Without beating around the bush, tell me, have you experimented on yourself?”
“I need more wine before replying.”
“Please answer first. Then drink as much as you want.”
“This discussion is long overdue. I apologize. Yes, I have modified my DNA to prove my theory.”
“When did this begin?”
“It was something I was studying in earnest when we met. I was hoping you would share my enthusiasm when I first brought it up. However, I had no evidence to address the questions you posed.”
“So I am going to continue aging and our children will eventually look like your parents?”
“Remember when you raised concern that loved ones should undergo the same treatment so they would not all precede the ageless in death?”
“Yes, are you going to say that you spiked my glass with an elixir of youth?”
“No, it doesn’t work that way. It is something that takes time in a controlled environment like the lab that you built for me in our home.”
“Are you hiding a population of ageless people in our basement?”
“Of course not, but I have tried on several occasions to get you to further my research at your job.”
“And I shut you down each time.”
“This is very difficult to say. Know that I love you and our children very much.”
“I know you do, Mae. But you are freaking me out a little. Have you discovered some dangerous side effect?”
“On the contrary. With the evident success in my case, I privately shared my findings with our adult children. They each began successful treatment five years ago.”
Visibly agitated, Robby responds, “How many laws have you broken to raise Frankenbabies without my consent?”
“Lower your voice. As I said, they gave adult consent after acquiring their own science and medical degrees.”
“So my entire family is ageless but me!”
“Physiologically, I am still ten years older than you. Phenotypically, I am much younger. So I have never had the need to dye my hair. We will have to see how long it lasts.”
“Not that I am asking to be another guinea pig, but what would happen if I underwent treatment? Would I look or feel younger?”
“It is not something we have investigated.”
“Who is the ‘we’ to which you refer?”
“The children and I are forming a company called Clarkson Biogenic.”
“When my achy body is planning retirement, you are launching a biogenic company?”
“Well, happy anniversary? It had to come out sometime. But, of course, you can be a part of it if you like.”
“In ten more years, when I’m pushing up daisies, are you going to marry another twenty-something stud to populate the earth?”
“While I understand your surprise, that is judgmental and hurtful, especially on our thirtieth anniversary. I want to go home now.”
“I’m sorry, babe. It’s just an enormous amount of information to take in—literally a lifetime of data. So I should just not say any more about it until I have time to process everything in my head. Let me pay for the dinner before we go.”
Thoughts race through Robby’s mind on the quiet ride home. After showering and brushing their teeth, the two climb beneath satin sheets and face opposite sides of their kingsize bed.
In the morning, Robby dresses for work and pours himself a cup of coffee before driving to work without waking his wife. He receives a midday text from Mae asking how he is holding up. His terse reply is, “Fine.”
Robby returns to his empty-nest home to see a formal table setting with candles and dinner.
Mae takes his coat, kisses him, and says, “You can’t pout forever. We had a very candid conversation last night. I am sorry for any pain I caused you. And I am still willing to answer any questions you might have.”
“I am not trying to pout. I am just trying to think. Perhaps I am more angry with myself for not embracing your enthusiasm when we were younger. We could have been on this path together. Now I feel like I am losing you.”
With a warm hug, Mae says, “You have not lost me yet. I stuck with you for thirty years and your favorite meal awaits us. Can we eat together?”
“Of course, right after I wash up,” Robby replies before kissing Mae on the cheek.